on the News
past Tuesday was special as local developer Dean Gitter celebrated his
Emerson Inn’s recent winning of a Conde Nast Johansen’s
award for being the Most Outstanding Inn in North America, Bermuda,
the Caribbean, Mexico and the Pacific.
Presenting the award in a special ceremony at the Mt. Tremper-based
inn was Johansen’s Managing Director and Publisher Andrew Warren,
fresh in from London, and New York Lieutenant Governor Mary O. Donohue.
During the evening, further accolades were granted Gitter and the Emerson
from the Ulster County Legislature, represented by Republican Majority
Leader Mike Stock, and U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, from whom
a fax arrived mid-meal.
Also on hand to help in the celebrating were several members of the
local press and a number of key members of Shandaken’s current
power elite, including Supervisor Bob Cross, Jr., who sat at the lead
table with Gitter, Republican Club president Gerry Setchko, and fellow
innkeeper Bob Linge, founder of the Citizens for Progress political
action committee that was mysteriously funded to place numerous large-sized
ads against the town’s previous Democratic administration, which
opposed Gitter’s proposed Belleayre resort project… and
were in complete absence Tuesday.
“I now hope that the state, the county and the Shandaken planning
board will allow us to do the Belleayre Resort in my lifetime,”
Gitter said after receiving his award, to a multitude of “hear,
hears” from those assembled. After particularly mentioning the
support he’s gotten from Cross, Stock and the governor’s
office, Gitter added that, “There’s a lot of work to do.
We have to work together to get it done.”
Conde Naste Johansen’s Vice President and U.S. Publishing Director
Lesley O’Malley-Keyes explained that inns pay to be in her magazine,
but are only accepted once okayed by her team of 20 hotel and inn inspectors.
Distribution is via the 243 participating inns, as well as via Borders
O’Malley-Keyes added that the award the Emerson was just granted
in a November 8 ceremony in London came as the result of inspectors’
recommendations, guest responses received, and her own sense of what
“I determine who deserves to win each year. It’s a personal
choice,” she added, noting her pleasure, in the coming year, at
including several new groups of inns to the magazine as a result of
recent negotiations with Relais and other hotel management organizations.
Rooms at the Emerson Inn, per couple per night, start at $470 and run
through $1,000 and up, dependent on the season and whether meals are
included. The inn includes a spa, and what Wine Spectator and other
tony magazines have named one of the top wine lists on the East Coast.
Emerson Place is the name given the complex of inns and stores that
Gitter started in the mid-1990s under the original name of Catskill
Corners, and includes the Emporium, formerly the Marketplace, the Lodge,
and the Catamount. The former Spotted Dog Cafe, once touted as a live
venue and briefly entertained as a possible dinner and movie site, is
currently being used for conferences.
According to employees of Emerson Place speaking at Tuesday’s
sinner, the Inn and other portions of the complex are currently doing
fine business on weekends but is seeking to increase its mid-week numbers.
Emerson Place reportedly employs up to 150 people in a year, with only
25 of those being European-born waiters who are part of the Inn’s
hostelry school, and for whose service the place has become known.
Gitter was beaming as he moved from table to table Tuesday, warning
guests such as Belleayre Mt. superintendent Tony Lanza and Hunter Mountain
owner Orville Slutzky, several local bankers, Ulster County Chamber
of Commerce director Ward Todd, Chief of Police Jimmy McGrath and former
legislator and newspaper owner Marian Umhey, that he was “planning
on having a hangover” by the next morning.
“Four years of shit and one evening of reward,” Gitter quipped
to one table at one point in the evening.
In past years, the developer, whose 1000-plus unit Belleayre Resort
project has proved highly controversial, and is in the midst of a state
SEQRA review, has used the holiday season to announce resort plans,
unveil working models, and submit review documents.
“I tell you, when they lifted that silver lid up off the plate,”
noted Setchko, out on the porch for a smoke before the dessert course,
“I said, ‘Where are the other three chops?’”
For further information on the Emerson Inn and Emerson Place, visit
its website at www.emersonplace.com.
But the call for cuts and
the specific questions posed November 30 by legislators to department
heads made for a spectacle unlike the normal ho-hum county budget
County department heads complied with the directive in a variety of
Perhaps the most dramatic and painful proposal came from County Social
Services Commissioner Glenn Decker said the county would save $863,276
next year by eliminating the unit called Coordinated Children’s
Services and laying off the 19 case workers staffing it. But he said
such a cut would ultimately cost taxpayers far more than is saved,
because the children served by the program would likely be institutionalized
or incarcerated without it, at a cost of several million dollars.
Decker called the prospect of such cuts, “my worst nightmare.”
The county Sheriff’s office, which has been scrutinized because
of the huge cost overruns and delays at the new jail and sheriff’s
headquarters building now under construction in Kingston, proposed,
in a terse one paragraph memo from Sheriff Richard Bockelmann, cutting
some $460,000 from the line for boarding out, which had exceeded $1.5
million under the original tentative budget. He also wrote, without
explanation, that he would cut DSS-Security 1813-8040 benefits by
$103,000. While the construction costs and the department annual operating
costs are separate, legislators have questioned several aspects of
the sheriff’s spending plan, especially those projected costs
to board out prisoners that greatly exceed the amounts in of previous
The complexities of mental health funding lead to difficult choices,
said Marshall Beckman, director of the county mental health department
who provided a detailed 18-page memo regarding his agency. “We
cannot achieve a 3.5 percent funding reduction without taking severe
steps,” he wrote in a refrain repeated in various forms throughout
the written and verbal presentations.
No decisions were made at the special meeting, and legislators have
until mid-December to finalize their spending plan. While the leadership
had originally hoped to wrap up the budget December 8, it has postponed
that meeting until December 13.
Legislators, especially Democrats, continue compiling figures they
say could be used to hide fat in department budgets. At the November
30 meeting, City of Kingston Democrat Jeanette Provenzano handed out
two separate lists of costs totaling over $8 million she said needed
The first list was a compilation of line items in each department
budget numbered 433-4553 Miscellaneous Contractual expenses. The line
item is contained on nearly every page of the budget in amounts ranging
from $1.95 million in a line item called “Contingent Account”
on page 76 of the 2005 tentative budget to figures as small as $75.
The 103 lines in the budget listed as miscellaneous contractual expenses
totaled $6.63 million on Provenzano’s list.
In their call for the cuts, Democrats included guidelines calling
for department heads to begin their quest for cost containment by
freezing management salaries at 2004 levels. But among the roughly
40 departments and agencies who made written presentations on their
budget, only one could immediately be found which contained a salary
freeze or reduction, and that involved a newly hired employee replacing
a long serving employee who retired.
Another pool of money is the so-called flex benefits package provided
management personnel over and above their normal salary and benefit
package. While the flex benefits can cover medical costs, they can
also cover costs ranging from a divorce lawyer to personal bankruptcy.
And in a wrinkle that rankles many Democrats and county labor leaders,
county management who don’t use the flex benefit receive a check
from the county every December for amounts that can reach $2,000.
The 2005 tentative budget plan, released in late October, called for
a 24 percent county property tax hike a figure that county administrator
Art Smith said was winnowed from valid appropriation requests that
would have created a 40 percent tax hike.
But Democrats on the county legislature, which has a 17-16 Republican
majority, called for across the board cuts of 3.5 percent. They said
their figures showed that would save almost $10 million, or roughly
the amount to be raised by the property tax increase.
the same plan was deemed to be a loser for the rest of the users of
the system in Pine Hill by former town Supervisor Peter DiModica who
passed on it at that time.
The plan is made possible through the Memorandum of Agreement signed
by the City of New York in 1997, and calls for the City’s Department
of Environmental Protection to pay for the installation of the pipes
that would hook the properties into the City owned waste treatment plant.
Once these retrofits were complete, the new users would get the service
The only cost to new users would be to hook their houses up, with the
City bringing the lines to within five feet of the foundation and the
homeowners or their contractor taking it from there . That's a modest
one-time expense compared to the cost of replacing a septic system,
and the deal also gives some properties more development capacity without
the need for space-taking septic areas on site. Sound good? Yes, but
there is a hitch or two.
Attorney Kevin Young, invited to Monday’s town board session by
Supervisor Robert Cross Jr., said that DEP wants one right that it has
never had in Pine Hill - the right to enforce the sewer laws. Young
said at present the town is the enforcement, but to his knowledge there
has never been any enforcement action since the sewer district was formed
back in the 1920’s... the DEP has no authority unless they are
invited into the home. Young said that the deal would allow DEP to investigate
the system any way they like, including inspections “to see what
people are putting down their drains.”
There were some concerns Monday about what that might mean to restaurants
and to other businesses in the hamlet. Young said it was unclear whether
there would be changes, but he did note that anyone dealing with “industrial
waste” would find themselves under a whole separate set of regulations.
The extension plan came to a quick halt three years ago, when DiModica,
a Pine Hill resident, said that the DEP also wanted the town to have
an entire enforcement brigade for Pine Hill, at the user's expense.
It would only be when DEP thought that the town’s enforcement
was poor that its own agents would step in. The result, DiModica said,
would be a cost to the users for the expense of enforcement in a district
that has never cost users a penny.
Young made it sound as if those costs would be minimal, but the legal
fees associated with the plan could be high. Young said DEP requires
the town “to go door to door” and acquire all the easements
and rights of way through properties to allow the extension to be installed.
A new sewer use law would need to prepared and adopted by the town board,
and a sewer extension agreement negotiated with DEP.
Young also noted, in the form of a warning, that in Middletown, his
firm, Young, Sommer LLC, learned the hard way that this can cost a lot.
He said his firm agreed to cap their costs at $5,000 in Middletown “and
we’ve now been working for free up there for two years…..We
won’t make that mistake again.”
According to Young, it would only be the users within the Pine Hill
sewer District that would pay for these legal costs, not the entire
town. At a hypothetical $10,000 in legal fees, each household in the
hamlet would have to pony up about $90. As for the DEP agreeing to the
extension, Pine Hill may no longer even have any agreement with the
DEP for anything. The deal drafted in the 1920’s was terminated
two years after Pine Hill, a former village, dissolved its government
and became a hamlet of the town of Shandaken in the 1980’s. Young
is not sure how City lawyers will view DEP’s responsibility for
the extension, though Al Frisenda, a landowner who stands to get three
of the new hook ups, said that DEP has already agreed to the extension
plan. If hired by the town board, Young said he would look into it.
One final catch that didn't surface at Monday's meeting concerns the
city's ability to release funding for the project. According to the
MOA, before such funding can be disbursed, it appears the town needs
to "adopt and maintain a comprehensive plan."
The proposed extension calls for hooking up properties along Route 28
near the waste treatment plant in the vicinity of Railroad Pizza, and
down the highway to Rose Mountain Road.
Cross, at the end of Young’s presentation, said that he knew more
about the plan than he did before. Unclear is whether Young would be
hired to pursue the plan.
In other business, the town board set its final meeting to close financial
business for the year at 3:00 PM, December 29, and its Reorganizational
Meeting for 2005 at 7:00 PM on January 3.<BR>
Neal’s one of the
great givers of the area, known for her baking and other cooking skills,
a staple for any who have ever attended an Onteora school board meeting
in Phoenicia, or any number of M.F. Whitney Fire Company events over
Yet Neal’s giving – which gains in quantity to match its
unmatchable quality this time of year – goes much farther, involving
years of work with the local PTA and fire department, running holiday
events for each.
And this all between regular work at the Phoenicia Pharmacy and local
post offices, where she’s been cleaning up for decades now.
Kathy says she picked up her baking and other cooking skills when
she found herself forced to take on many of her family’s homemaking
responsibilities at the age of eleven. The memory remains bittersweet
for the sweet woman who is not ashamed when emotions ripple through
her, lending her compassionate actions a sincerity to counter their
Suffice it to say, Neal knows what it is to have little in this rural
area. And to be thankful, and giving, with all one gets, or has gotten.
“I was taken in by a family,,,” she starts to explain
about the roots of her empathetic nature.
We choose to speak about getting Christ back into the Spirit of Christmas,
and the joys of parenting. And furthermore, Neal’s continuing
belief that in its more elemental character, the area hasn’t
“If somebody needs help, people here will help,” Neal
says. “There’s a community of support here.”
As for problems… she worries a bit that today’s schools
force children to take on too much too early, and lose some of the
simpler joys of just being kids.
And yet it’s not enough to gripe about. Just comment on.
Her favorite holiday song, Neal says, is :Away in a Manger.”
Her favorite song, bar none, is the Methodist hymn, “I Love
To Tell The Story.”
And her holiday wish? Simple:
“That every body has a happy holiday season and that if they
don’t have what they need, they get it for the holidays.”
Which should, for those in the know, include some of Kathy Neal’s
great baking… not to forget her wide and open soul, her soaring
pure-as-snow Catskillian spirit.